This post adds to the topics touched on in the previous blog post about knowing your community’s bloggers and making use of them. What I’d like to talk about now is the evolution of hyperlocalism and the role of New Media and the Internet in it.
On top of the many ills that the newspaper industry current suffers from, one that I’m interested in analyzing is how small titles over time pulled back from its readers and enforced a ‘one-way-street’ mentality with the news.
The ‘one-way-street’ approach is very print-oriented. A press release rolls in, a few calls are made, a story is written, edited, and put in the paper. Titles have grown very accustomed to throwing news at their readers and hoping it sticks.
In a sense it suggests that the title knows whats best for its readers inherently, and is thus giving it to them without actually asking.
The Internet has changed that. News is a two-way street — especially hyperlocally. Titles should represent the community that they cover, while at the same time evolving with what their readers’ wants and needs are.
What I’m suggesting is a new approach to hyperlocalism. The idea of giving a community more of a stake in covering itself and letting its voice be heard. You do this, at a base level, by knowing every single important person on your beat. You then ask each of these important people if they would be willing to write blog posts detailing the goings-on of their areas. You’re giving them a voice.
Stay in touch with these people regularly. Ask them if they’ve had any ideas for blog posts. Then have them pitch it to you. This is a somewhat radical concept, but I think it’s important. Your community — your readers — should be pitching stories to you. You do this by setting up a group of well-known community members as pitchmen (and women).
You’ve got to give the community a stake in its coverage. Pass some of the onus onto them. The best way to get the community involved and caring is to let them, in a way, cover themselves.
I’m not suggesting this works at every level of the publication. What I am suggesting is that it would likely give the community a greater sense of ownership over a title that is supposed to be representing them and giving them the news that they want and need to know.
The Internet makes this possible and I believe it’s a direction that titles should seriously consider taking, first at an experimental stage and then, depending upon its success, pursuing it further.
It’s refined citizen journalism. These people aren’t journalists by trade. But they do have valuable information and are considered important people in the community. Not giving them a platform would be a mistake.